A biome is a distinctive community classified by type of vegetation and climate. The University of California Museum of Paleontology groups biomes into six categories: desert, forest, grassland, tundra, marine, and freshwater. The tropical rainforest is the most complex and diverse of the biomes. These communities can be found near the equator. Trees provide layers of canopies that allow little sunlight to penetrate and provide an environment that houses a variety of vegetation.
These plants, which are related to the pineapple family, live on the forest floor. Their thick, waxy leaves form a bowl that is used to catch water and to shelter some species of animals, including snails, frogs, beetles, and salamanders.
Some rainforest plants, such as the Venus fly trap and pitcher plant of Southeast Asia actually eat small mammals, reptiles, and insects. They also make their home on the forest floor.
Heterotrophs are non-photosynthetic plants that make their home on the forest floor. They can be classified as parasites or saprophytes. Parasites receive nutrition by feeding off the roots and stems of living plants that engage in photosynthesis. In contrast, saprophytes get nutrients from decaying organic material rather than other living plants.
Lianas are green-stemmed plants that grow on tree trunks where there are gaps in the canopy. They are a type of climbing vine with thick, woody stems. While they begin life on the forest floor, they grow upward toward the sunlight using trees for support by attaching themselves to the trunks with sucker roots or tendrils. Types of lianas include philodendron and rattan palms.
Epiphytes are found mainly on the branches and trunks of trees where their seeds or spores were transported by the wind or birds. Rather than feeding on their hosts, they absorb moisture and nutrients from the air around them. These plants include orchids, lichens, mosses, and ferns.
Stranglers, such as the fig family, begin life as epiphytes that then extend their roots downward to the forest floor. As they grow, these plants send a system of thin roots down the trunks of the host tree to the forest floor. The roots compete with those of the host tree for nutrients. Eventually, the strangler plant kills the host tree by wrapping its roots around the tree's trunk cutting off its flow of nutrients.